CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 8 . . . .December 8, 2006
Toronto, ON: Key Porter Books, 2006.
247 pp., pbk., $11.95.
Grades 5-10 / Ages 10-15.
Review by Libby McKeever.
Lucy, too, was captivated by the animal, and it soon appeared that these feelings were mutual. As long as she stayed within sight, it remained clam and compliant. As soon as she wandered away, however, it would stiffen up and deliver a barrage of forceful squeals until she returned. Although its odd appearance took a bit of getting used to, Lucy soon grew to find it rather amusing. It reminded her of the "Mr. Potato Head" toy she had once been given as a little girl.
It was a weird mixture of a number of animals, appearing to cross the boundaries of many different species -- from the colourful feathers that sprouted out of the top of its head down to the lizard-like skin covering its hands and feet. It had a face and tail similar to that of a New World spider monkey, but its green, almond-shaped eyes were more akin to those of a wild cat. Mounds of soft fur covered most of its body, tipped with golden strands that shimmered in the light, but just below its pointed bat ears were two small slits, like gills of a fish. It was as if someone had orchestrated an elaborate joke, Lucy's uncle suggested - like a zoological Dr. Frankenstein somewhere had decided to sew a few different animal parts together and give everyone a good scare.
All at once, the door swung open. A girl with dark hair, maybe his age, rushed in the room. This must be Sir Jeffrey's niece, thought Evan, trying to remember her name--Lisa.Leslie.Lucinda!
"Uncle Jeff! It's incredible! You won't believe what just--"
As the sleeve of Lucinda Parnell's stretchy cardigan hooked itself onto a large piece of wood protruding from the doorframe, she was stopped short; then, as the piece of wood snapped off, catapulted backward out of the room. She landed on her bottom in the middle of the hallway. Picking herself up from the floor, she slowly crept forward on her knees and scanned the room.
"I'm sorry, Uncle Jeff," she mumbled with embarrassment.
Standing now, Alec McKay leaned over and gallantly offered her his arm. “I didn't know you had visitors."
"Our co-workers, actually," Sir Jeffrey replied. "This Alec McKay, the wildlife photographer we've been expecting, and his son Evan. Gentlemen this is my niece, Lucinda," Sir Jeffrey looked down with concern. "You haven't injured yourself in any way, have you, my dear?"
The girl blushed, shook her head and smiled weakly. It was an awkward moment for her-for everyone there, in fact-but Evan, for reasons he could not fathom, felt compelled to let out a hearty laugh. Even as it was happening, he could feel the cold glare of his father's eyes bearing down on him and a strong elbow in his side, and he knew instantly that he was in serious trouble. His inappropriate behaviour might have been due to the long and exhausting bus trip, or perhaps it was the side effect of being somewhere new and strange. Whatever the reason, it was inexcusable. In deference to his niece's feeling, Sir Jeffrey pretended not to notice the outburst. The girl, however, turned to Evan and glared at him with a look so harsh and withering he wanted to sink into the floor.
Thankfully for Evan, everyone's attention quickly turned away from him and back to the reason Lucy's spectacular entrance. Noting that the creature seemed more comfortable in his niece's presence than his own, Sir Jeffrey had transferred his new, comfortable enclosure into Lucy's room. Left in her care while Sir Jeffrey made arrangements to have some preliminary blood, fur and skin samples sent to a Kathmandu lab for biochemical and DNA testing, the creature appeared to have grown even more attached to Lucy. He had begun, she now reported with excitement, to emit a sound that could only be described as a purr.
Sixteen-year-old Lucinda Parnell is passionate about zoology, and, since the death of her parents when she was three, Lucy has spent all of her holidays accompanying her uncle, Sir Jeffrey Parnell on his scientific expeditions. Sir Jeffrey has become ardent about crytozooology, the study of secret creatures, such as the Loch Ness monster and the Yeti. With the support of an unknown benefactor, the two Parnell's have been scouring the world for evidence of these cryptidsycpotis, and this time they are in the high Himalayan Mountains of Tibet in the small village of Dhunche, far beyond Kathmandu.
Due to ailing health, Sir Jeffrey has been unable to accompany his field crew, and so the search for, and capture of, any creatures has been left in the hands of a highly recommended man, Francis Darby. When the crew captures a previously unknown creature, Sir Jeffrey's excitement is dampened as it is obvious that the creature has been badly treated and is extremely distressed in Darby's presence. As a result, Sir Jeffrey's begins to doubt the word and credibility of his lead hand.
This wondrous new creature, a combination of a myriad of species, is oddly calmed by Lucy's presence, and, when she touches it, she is able to read its thoughts in mind-pictures and feelings. Through this psychic communication, Lucy realizes that Darby has been lying about the circumstances behind the capture of the creature. Much to Lucy's discomfort and distress, Darby makes unwelcome advances to her and threatens to jeopardize her uncle's safety if she informs him about her suspicions.
Alec McKay, a wildlife photographer, and his son, Evan, arrive at the hotel where the Parnell's are staying to document the new creature. During the long bone-numbing bus ride, Evan's dad gave him Jack Trenton's travel journal to read. Fascinated, Evan discovered that Trenton's travels in the 1960's ended abruptly after encountering a cryptoid, the abdominal snowman, in the same area in which they were headed. This encounter caused Jack Trenton such metal torment that he felt compelled to seek solace at a monastery which is where the journal abruptly ends.
After a bad start, these two very different teens, Lucy and Evan, are drawn together by this unusual creature whose home is the sacred region known as the "abode of the gods" and by questions that were raised in the mysterious journal. Carew's arrival unveils his true wish, to preserve his head by cryonics, a revelation that coincides with multiple news reports of unusual animal activity. Lucy and Evan join forces to attempt to stop what they believe might be irreparable damage to life on earth. They believe it may be caused by the continued imprisonment of the mysterious creature.
In Carew, J.C. Mills explores the interrelation of all living things and the precarious and precious link that binds them all. Through the character of Carew, the author investigates the danger of unrestrained self-indulgence and desire, the possibility that by tipping the balance in
nature, all our lives may be jeopardy. Through the characters of Evan, Lucy and Sir Jeffery, Mills, suggests that restraint and preservation is the route by which this balance might be maintained.
A self-taught artist, J.C. Mills has written and illustrated a number of children's books, including Bridge 6, The Stonehook Schooner, The Painted Chest, and While the Bear Sleeps.
Libby McKeever is a library technician who works in the Whistler Secondary School library in Whistler, BC.
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